Teachers pushing against increase in pension contribution

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–Public school teachers around the state are pushing hard against a part of the bipartisan state budget deal. It calls on teachers to contribute more to their pension plan, but the head of the largest teacher union calls it an unfair tax on teachers.

Public school teachers around the state are flooding state lawmakers’ inboxes with e-mails urging them not to include the current plan in the bipartisan budget that calls for them to pay one percent more of their pay into the teacher pension program. Teachers, who do not participate in Social Security, currently pay 6% of their pay to their pension, and the state pays the rest.

In a statement, Sheila Cohen, the President of the largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association said: “Teachers stand together, unequivocally opposed to a teacher tax. It will not help balance the state budget and can and must be eliminated. Over the years, the state has not fully funded or paid its share of the teacher retirement plan, which at 4.56% is less than what teachers have contributed for decades. It is unfair to punish teachers with an increase in the payroll tax to pay a portion of the state’s share.  Some legislators are saying the increase in the teacher retirement payroll tax is not a tax increase. Of course it is a tax increase! Teachers should not be punished for the state’s mistakes. Teachers do not receive Social Security and are dependent on their retirement fund. Legislators must keep their promise to teachers who have fully funded their fair share of teacher retirement for decades.”

Rep. Melissa Ziobron (R-East Haddam), the Assistant Republican Leader disagrees, saying in rebuttal: “I keep hearing this term “teachers tax” that is not true. It is a falsehood and it misrepresents the package that is before us.”

Legislative leaders from both parties say the teachers’ union actively opposed the Governor’s proposal to have the cities and towns pick up part of the tab for teacher pensions. “I know they are not excited about the additional teacher contribution, we held firm and made sure the teachers retirement burden was not put on towns and cities,” said Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby) the House Minority Leader.

The leaders also point out that the 25 percent tax exemption for teachers retirement pay is continued in the budget plan. Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) said, “Contributions for pensions have been going up everywhere else; the state employees are paying more. We’re asking our teachers, who do great services throughout the state of Connecticut, to pay an additional one percent of their payroll to secure their pension.”

The leaders are still working on the local aid portion of the budget plan but now say that the amounts going to cities and towns should be enough to avoid any supplemental tax bills. “The cuts are so de minimis, quite frankly, that I can’t see anyone reopening their budget at this point in time,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford).

Legislative leaders said they wanted to meet with the Governor over the weekend to outline their budget plan but since a formal document is not yet prepared that meeting has been pushed up to next week.

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